‘Monet and Chicago’ is an emotional display of one of the greatest artists of all time

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Monet’s Water Lillies was finished in 1906 and is on display at the Art Institute.

If there must be one word to describe Claude Monet’s work, that word inevitably is light. The light in its all nuances is the main force that consciously or subconsciously catches the eye and takes it to a journey through sincere emotions and moods. 

In the midst of a pandemic, the Art Institute of Chicago is hosting an exhibition of Claude Monet (1840-1926), Monet and Chicago, Sept. 5 through Jan. 18, 2021. The exhibition is a result from a long relationship between Monet’s work and the Art Institute of Chicago, which, in the 1880s, was the first American museum that acquired a painting by the “Father of Impressionism.”

In the following years, the museum’s Monet collection has grown through generous donations. Among the 33 paintings and 13 drawings are canvases from the series of the famous “Stacks of Wheat,” the “Waterloo Bridge” in London, Monet’s favorite obsession — the “Water Lilies” series and caricatures from his early years as an artist.

“Monet combined self-assertion, generalization, and escapism. In the process, he defined a new, powerful avant-garde,” wrote John Haber in his review of the Monet retrospective at the Art Institute in 1995, which was visited by millions and tickets were in great demand. A display from Chicago Tribune 1995 classifieds of tickets for sale are also part of this year’s Monet in Chicago exhibition.

 The museum offers free admission to all DePaul students, and the safety measures include a wait time to enter the show. But the social distancing is in the viewers’ favor because it gives you a space to observe Monet’s artwork in a particular view.

The six-foot distance subconsciously makes you keep this distance with the paintings as well, and provides a unique view of what you can observe on the canvas. From the right spot, Monet’s work seems like a moment in time that has been frozen for us to see — all its uniqueness resulting from a masterful use of light and colors that mimic photographic features with a precise exposure.

“Monet is the one that chooses to use multiple times color above color to catch the light in its most possible diffused form,” said artist Kina Bagovska. “He uses the brush in a masterful way, often using his memory and imagination.” 

“Monet knew well that blue is supposed to be recessive: atmospheric perspective dictates that it signals depth,” Haber wrote. “He insisted on his experiments in light and color. Logic and evidence will always outweigh tradition.”

And Haber couldn’t be more correct — looking at the “Waterloo Bridge” canvas is an experience that plays with your emotions. The skillful representation of the atmospheric condition in London in this particular day and moment when Monet observed it has the power to change your mood dramatically.

Through the masterful use of blue and white, this painting takes us to a journey back to 1900, where, from his Savoy hotel room, Monet gives the following generations a subjective point of view of the dawn in 20th century London. In fact, the artist painted the scene over 40 times trying to catch the fog and the weather condition to its finest detail. And seeing this work in front of me had so much influence on my mood, which was initially a bit depressed and moody. 

Yet the emotions while observing his works change rapidly. As I moved through the room, my eyes were grabbed and literally imprisoned by the masterful representation of the water lily pond where each burst of light was so real that it felt as if I was hearing the water moving.

It is no surprise that Monet was obsessed to paint lilies over 300 times so their simultaneous stillness and movement that intrigued viewers’ imaginations could be caught on the canvas. He must have been determined to find each possible nuance of their life and cold beauty.

“Monet and Chicago” is a peaceful, personal and emotional encounter with the artwork of one of the greatest artists of all time.

“It takes a great deal of work to succeed in rendering what I want to render…the same light diffuses over everything.”- Monet to Custave Geffroy, Giverny, October 1890.